there was a popular author who went by the name of Richard. His
best-selling book is still available more than 200 years after his
death. Richard was a pretty good inventor too; in fact, some of his
inventions and ideas are still being used today.
Besides being an author, he was
also a scientist, a statesman, a printer, an economist, a musician
and a philosopher.
Did I mention that he was also
the first postmaster general of the United States? His work as
postmaster general inspired him to invent the odometer, which
measured the distance that mail carriers traveled. Why was it
important to measure the distance they traveled? Because it would be
another 80 years before someone would invent postage stamps, and the
postage rate was calculated by the distance the mail carrier had to
travel to deliver it. Then the recipient of the letter, not the
sender, would pay the postage due.
Richard was also the first
person to have his image appear on a U.S. stamp. Oddly enough, the
second person to have his image appear on a stamp was George
You say you haven't heard of
Maybe it would help if you knew
his full name: Richard Saunders. Richard introduced some pretty
original sayings in his book, such as "Haste makes waste" and "Early
to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
His father had earlier landed
in Boston when he immigrated to America looking for religious
freedom. Born in 1706, Richard was the youngest of 16 kids --
including six half siblings born to his father's first wife. Like
his father, he was the youngest son of a youngest son; in fact, he
was one of five consecutive generations of youngest sons.
[to top of second column in
A man with many successful
inventions and ideas, he was the first to suggest the idea of
daylight savings time. This idea was years ahead of its time,
though, as daylight savings time wasn't implemented until long after
Richard died. He had invented many things, but he chose to give them
away rather than profit from them.
It was the lightning rod that
resulted from his greatest accomplishment.
You still haven't heard of him?
You probably have, but you just
don't realize it. Not yet, anyway. Maybe it would help if you knew
that he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
even though you won't find Richard Saunders' name anywhere on the
document. You've probably heard of his popular book "Poor Richard's
Almanack," which he published each year for 25 years.
In a previous article in this
column, we listed the five greatest inventions of all time, and one
of those was the discovery and use of electricity. That was
Richard's main claim to fame. You see, he conducted a simple
experiment with a kite and a key, and that enabled him to tap into
the power of electricity.
That's impossible, you say --
Richard Saunders didn't discover electricity.
Actually, Richard wasn't his real name; it was his pen name. His
real name was… Ben Franklin.
"Invention Mysteries" is written each
week by Paul Niemann. He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004